- FOXE, John
John Foxe was a zealous proponent of the English Reformation, renowned as the compiler of Acts and Monuments of These Latter and Perilous Days (first edition, 1563), known popularly as The Book of Martyrs. This monumental collection influenced the formation of English Protestant identity and the development of nationalistic fervor during and after the reign of Elizabeth I* (1558-1603).After receiving the bachelor of arts degree in 1538 and the master of arts in 1543, Foxe was expelled from Magdalen College, Oxford, because he opposed the vow of celibacy and membership in religious orders required of permanent fellows. He began to chronicle church history under the patronage of the staunchly Protestant duchess of Richmond. With the accession of the Catholic queen Mary I* in 1553, Foxe followed other Protestant ideologues in fleeing to the Continent to avoid persecution. Finding haven at Strasbourg, Frankfurt, and Basel, he followed John Bale's* practice of compiling documents concerning the persecution of Protestant "saints" (fervent believers) and martyrs both in England and abroad. His initial Latin publications, Commentarii rerum in ecclesia gestarum (1554) and Rerum in ecclesia gestarum (1559), afford the foundation for Acts and Monuments, published largely in the vernacular after the death of Queen Mary. Foxe followed the recommendation of fellow exiles, notably Edmund Grindal, later archbishop of Canterbury, that he chronicle the Marian persecutions in close detail.Printed by the zealously Protestant publisher John Day, The Book ofMartyrs enjoyed considerable success and underwent four editions in Foxe's lifetime alone. In contrast to the representation of saints as superhuman figures in medieval legends, Foxe offers grisly accounts of the faithful perseverance and death of low-born and high-born people who testified to their religious faith to the point of death. A common thread emphasizes testimonials of faith by lowly artisans, workers, and theologians who denied the efficacy of the doctrine of good works and the salvific force of allegedly magical feats, miracles, paranormal cures, and relics typical in medieval hagiographies.Among the best-known martyrologies are the examination and burning of Anne Askew* under Henry VIII* and accounts of the death of John Rogers, the first Marian martyr; the suffering of John Hooper, bishop of Gloucester; the reaffirmation of faith and subsequent burning of Thomas Cranmer,* archbishop of Canterbury; and the double execution of Nicholas Ridley and Hugh Latimer. The famous woodcut for the last-named martyrdom is inscribed with Latimer's last words, which were to become a rallying cry of the English reformation: "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace in England, as I trust shall never be put out."Editions of The Book ofMartyrs proliferated after its initial publication. By order of convocation, a copy of the 1570 edition was placed in every church in England. It has become a truism that if Protestant households in seventeenth-and eighteenth-century England or New England contained only two books, they would have been the English Bible and some version of Foxe's Book of Martyrs. Protestant families conducted assiduous readings from both texts.BibliographyD. Loades, ed., John Foxe and the English Reformation, 1997.J. F. Mozley, John Foxe and His Book, 1940. W. Wooden, John Foxe, 1983.John N. King
Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. Jo Eldridge Carney. 2001.